These people have all either volunteered for City University London, or benefitted from City volunteers. Have a read of their stories and see what a difference volunteering can make!
Interview with Harriet Goodman, Life Opportunities Manager at St. Luke's Primary School
by Assel Tleof
St. Luke’s Primary School is a wonderful spot, situated just round the corner from the beating heart of the City. This is a place free from office stress and exam fever where you can find yourself sitting on soft carpet and exploring the green playground. It lures you in with the smell of fresh apple-pie and colorful old books on the shelves. But the most remarkable sight of all here is the children: the ones who the volunteers from City are committed to helping through their weekly reading session.
Harriet Goodman, Life Opportunities Manager, answered a few questions about City volunteers.
What benefits do you see from volunteering?
The general benefits are that volunteering gives children one-to-one attention from a caring adult. Not just specifically whilst reading, but in general, for the child it is very important to be able to chat with someone different and someone adult, who’ll speak to them, listen to them and, in the case of City University London students, raise the child’s aspirations towards higher education. Teachers do the so-called “technical work”, but they are hardly able to give one-to-one time in a class of thirty, so volunteers are vital, they encourage children to read and also get some enjoyment out of the process - which is great!
Do you think children enjoy this activity
Generally it has a very high and desirable profile, so it’s something children want to have. We are unable to give every child a volunteer, so we prioritize them, and it is considered a privilege to have a volunteer working with a child. Although reading sessions run during the lunch break, the time when children are allowed to have a little play outside, they are still prepared to go and read when they see their reading partners, so it’s quite a popular activity.
Are the volunteers enthusiastic?
Oh yeah, people who come to this are certainly very enthusiastic! Many of the volunteers are quite experienced with their younger siblings, so they get along very well.
What challenges arise?
We try to support them well. We link the children up individually, and we are always aware about how they are getting on. If something goes wrong, we change the reading partners, but in my four years managing the volunteer programme that has only happened once. I talk regularly with both children and volunteers to find out how things are going. What is challenging for us is the administrative work involved given the numbers of people keen to volunteer at our small school, and the increasingly strict procedures required for safeguarding children. City has been very helpful in providing its own volunteer network and support.
Are you yourself interested in volunteering?
Yes, I was always interested in it, I did a lot of volunteering when I was a student, it was my way to do something different and learn something. This habit is still with me, I volunteer as a school governor now.
It was an interesting conversation with Harriet, but I couldn’t resist going to see one of the kids myself. The ten year old boy I talked to turned out to be the best interviewee ever, completely sincere and serious in each of his answers:
Do you like your reading sessions?
Yeah, I really do, because it’s actually lots of fun. We come and we sit on this comfortable couches [he bounces on the couch to show how it really is soft], we relax for a bit and then read. I read a page, then she reads a page. And we come out with lots and lots of jokes sometimes, especially with funny books.
What books do you like?
Simpson comics, I always bring them from home when we have reading hour.
Do you like reading?
I do. I read a lot. At home, I read noble books, like Harry Potters, and all that stuff. My sister had these books so I don’t have to buy any. And also I like reading even more than computer games, because if you play a lot it gets boring. Then, when you read – it gets to be more fun, because things in books always change, and I like that.
Do you like your reading partner?
I really like her. She’s very funny and she’s a teenager, and I like teenagers, I know how teenagers react, because my sister is a teenager, so I know how to deal with them [he is completely serious at this point].